Dogs running down the stairs beagle with german spitzIn May 2021, the New York State Legislature passed a bill proposing the adoption of the “best interest” standard in determining the custody of pets. Governor Hochul signed the bill on Oct. 25, 2021 and, effective immediately, the new state law now requires the court to apply many of the same factors in determining the custody of pets as it applies in determining custody in the “best interest” of a child.

These factors include but are not limited to: (1) the quality of the home environment, (2) the level of parental guidance, (3) the particular needs of the child, (4) the child’s preference (if applicable) and (5) the desirability of keeping siblings together. As stated by the Court of Appeals in Eschbach v. Eschbach, 56 N.Y.2d 167 (1982), “in considering questions of child custody” the court “must make every effort to determine ‘what is for the best interest of the child, and what will best promote its welfare and happiness.’” Clearly, the “best interests” analysis is a complicated, time-consuming, and costly process. Other often necessary considerations include testimony by a party and/or expert, appointing an attorney for the child, in camera reviews, forensic and psychological evaluations, and other professionally prepared reports.